Bomb squad responds to suspicious package, turns out to be harmless

ATWATER -- A glass bottle wrapped in duct tape stirred bomb concerns at an Atwater gas station Monday, prompting a host of law enforcement and other agencies to respond to the scene.

In the end, investigators determined the object wasn't an explosive and an unidentified powdery substance inside it wasn't hazardous. No one was arrested.

The incident happened after employees at the Arco AM/PM station off Applegate Road and Bell Lane reported seeing the suspicious object around 9:30 a.m. near a gas pump, according to Atwater police.

Atwater police officers responded to the scene, closed off and evacuated the area. Traffic was diverted away from the scene.

The Merced Police Department's bomb squad was called and the object was moved to a nearby field. It was destroyed with a high-powered water cannon from the squad's remote-control robot.

A hazardous materials team from CalFire determined the substance in the bottle wasn't harmful to the public. Atwater police opened the area back up to traffic around 5 p.m..

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to call (209) 357-6396 or the department's automated tip line at (209) 357-6390. Calls are kept confidential and you can remain anonymous.

-- Sun-Star Staff